A Quest: My Top Ten Movies. Sort of!

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Speaking of movies; A friend and I were taking about the movie “Airplane” after my last blog. I stated that “Airplane” was one of my top ten favorite movies ever. Of course, that statement got me thinking about what other movies were on my top ten list. It turns out my top ten list is twelve (give or take) movies long. I guess I am using an alternative arithmetic.

In no particular order here is my top ten list of movies and a reason why, sort of.

  1. Airplane: A comedy based on the 1957 movie “Zero Hour” about an airline emergency. The dialogue is taken almost directly from the drama “Zero Hour” to create the off-beat humor. Many of the actors in ‘Airplane’ were making their debut in comedy for this film. Surely, you believe I am not serious. Yes, I am serious and stop calling me Shirley.  
  2. Young Frankenstein:   In my opinion the best of Mel Brookes, although Blazing Saddles is a close second for good belly laughs. Abby Normal’s brain leads to one laugh after another.
  3. Monty Python And the Holy Grail: One of the ten most stupid movies ever produced. But, the day after my first viewing of the film I found myself quoting the dialogue and laughing out loud (LOL).     ‘I taunt in your direction.’
  4. The Green Mile: JC, the convicted killer has the ability to heal other people physically and emotionally in this movie about mercy, grace and forgiveness.   Yes, it is a story about JC-Jesus Christ.
  5. Shawshank Redemption: Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins  bring us a story of redemption over the corrupt system and bullies in life. I can relate.
  6. Field of Dreams: Another story of redemption played out on a baseball diamond in the hereafter. 
  7. 42: The story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball.   This is another story of redemption but this time for a whole race of people.
  8. Michael: An angel who smells like cookies can’t be all bad.
  9. Bull Durham: The movie is about baseball and stars Susan Sarandon.   Do I need to say more?
  10. Bruce Almighty: Morgan Freeman’s God is how I imagine God living with us while not treating us like puppets. 
  11. A League of Their Own:   Gives women their due on the baseball diamond.
  12. The Blues Brothers: “There are 106 miles to Chicago, we have a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.” “We’re on a mission from God.”   And the music is fabulous.
  13. Game 7 of the 1960 World Series: This isn’t technically a movie but, I watch this game once a year on or near October 13th when the over-matched Pittsburgh Pirates beat the New York Yankees for the world championship in 1960.

My Jane reminded me there are a bunch of Christmas movies I watch every December to get in the Christmas mood. This is an addendum to my list of ten favorite movies. Many, many, many years ago I started the tradition of watching, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, Miracle on 34th St’, ‘The Santa Claus’, ‘The Nativity Story’. ‘The Christmas Story’, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’, ‘The Polar Express’ and my favorite ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ (A man can change).   While the world around me is all hectic and out of control in December I escape into these movies absorbing the wonder of a Christmas Miracle.

This is my list of top ten movies, sort of! I look forward to hear your list of top ten movies.

See you next time.

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A Quest: An Airport Adventure

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It was eight o’clock PM when I found myself in the loving arms of My Jane last Friday night. My adventure had begun fourteen hours earlier when my alarm rang waking me for my trip to catch a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Florida to Pennsylvania. 

This episode began a week earlier when my favorite Mother-in-law, Helen, fell and broke her hip. I’m not allowed to tell you how old Helen is, but she shares a birthday year with this lady.   So, a broken hip is a huge concern. My Jane was on a plane the next day to Western Pennsylvania to be at her Mom’s, side. I was flying up a week later to spend a few days with My Jane and Helen (Did I mention she is my favorite Mother-in-law?”)

On my way through the food court to my gate I bought a breakfast burritos meal. Surely, this would be my last meal in Orlando today. The flight was scheduled to depart at 9:55 AM and everything seemed to be going as usual. We were all settled into our seats waiting for the door to close and the engines to start roaring.  The pilot had turned the fasten seat belt signs on   

and then it happened. The crew informed us that a door was stuck on the bottom of the plane and we couldn’t take off until it was fixed.

In my experience when these bumps in the process on airlines occur people who had not spoken to each other become long-lost friends. In our row we had greeted each other but we really began to get acquainted following the captain’s announcement. The young man to my right was a senior archeology major at Penn State (Go Nittany Lions). On his lap was a large three-cornered pirate hat that I had acknowledged while buckling myself in.   His grandmother who was on my left shared how the young man liked hats. The hat in question had been purchased at Pirates of the Caribbean in Magic Kingdom.  

Turns out the grandmother was the first woman hired as a guard at Rockview State Prison in Bellefonte   just up the road from State College (Go Nittany Lions).

I was impressed and stated, “You must be a toughy.” To which the grandson replied, “You should try to live with her.” I was wondering how safe I was sitting in the middle seat! 

Now we were informed that we would have to deplane because the fix on the door required removing the door. The door couldn’t be removed until the airplane was completely shut down. So, we all walked back up the ‘tunnel’ to hang out at our gate number 128. We were barely settled when the announcement was made that the airline had good news. Another plane was found at gate 106. Now, I am wondering how the plane got lost in the first place, but I was happy it was found. 

A plane load of passengers navigated through the crowded  food court   on its way to gate 106. Passing through the food court I purchase a sub sandwich for brunch. Surely, this would be my last meal in Orlando today.

Alas, we received more bad news once we arrived at gate 106. This plane also has a mechanical issue and is being repaired. Surely, this will only take a few minutes. The airlines kept me informed of departure time changes on my cell phone (I had six of these messages before the actual take off at 4:00pm.)

The guy sitting beside me in the gate area is plugged into his phone, so we are not communicating. But, the guy looks like a football player  (or basketball player).  The young couple (30 something) across from me are very animated-well she is very, animated in a fun way-and we get to talking. She is an engineer  (No, not that kind of engineer.) and he is a doctor.  They are moving from a two-story house in Pittsburgh to an apartment in Manhattan. For three days they have been delivering ‘stuff’ and cars to parents in two different states on about three hours sleep every night. Today, they are to pick up the U-haul, the dog, load the truck and drive to Manhattan. The doctor’s new assignment in infectious diseases begins on Monday so timing is critical.

The engineer is a tunnel inspector for a national company and starts telling me stories about the Pittsburgh tunnels. She even shows me photos of the exhaust fans above the tunnel on route 70 under the continental divide out in Colorado. I swapped some tunnel stories from our trips in Norway and she got all excited talking about how U. S. tunnel folks keep learning tunnel stuff from the Europeans. She makes tunnels fun.

 Our conversation was interrupted   by another update that didn’t really give us an update but did announce the distribution of $100 travel vouchers. The doc and engineer decided it was time to get an adult beverage and invited me along. I declined wanting to get my voucher in hand.

 As they left the guy next to me unplugged  to find out what was going on. Once he was caught up on the un-update I shared with him that I followed him onto the plane the first time we boarded and thought about asking him to open a hole for me to run through. He grinned and said, “That is what I do.” He plays flag football in a semi-pro circuit sponsored by the NFL. He plays for a team based in New Orleans named ‘Fighting Cancer’. The team was playing in a tournament quarterfinal match leading to the possibility of winning one million dollars. Who would have thought you could make money playing flag football. All I ever got was black and blue. He played college ball, semi-pro and arena football in his earlier years. I asked about concussions. In his career he has only had one minor concussion suffering that in his arena football days. 

He is a physical therapist in his day job and is very happy doing what he does. I told him about my Mother-in-law and he said, “I have found that women do better than men recovering. It always seems to take men longer and they complain more.” So, okay they were only small black and blue bruises I got playing flag football. And they healed fast. 

We saw the line had dwindled for the vouchers, so we went for it with him opening the hole for me to run through. After receiving our vouchers he returned to his phone and I took the ten-dollar lunch voucher to buy an oriental meal. Hey, a free meal is a free meal!  Surely, this would be my last meal in Orlando today.

To entertain myself I went for a walk and decided to ride the tram back to the main terminal then back to terminal “A”. Hey, it was something to do. I ran into a guy wearing a Korean Veterans baseball cap and greeted him. He was like a long-lost friend talking about flying F-100 fighters   “They were difficult to fly. You had to be constantly aware.”

He also, flew C-130 number 0001(that would be the prototype airframe) to demonstrate its troop-carrying abilities to the Army.  

The Korean Vet’s wife joined us (they just learned that I was a retired military chaplain) and shared how her first husband had just graduated from Med school when the Army was gearing up for the Berlin Wall confrontation. He received nine months training and was declared a Psychiatrist. The job wasn’t to hard. He was assigned to some desolate place populated with Quonset huts. Soldiers would run away from the place but the MPs would catch them and take them to meet with the Psychiatrist who asked them why they ran away. The troop would always say, “I don’t like it here.”

The shrink would reply, “I don’t like it here either. The chaplain doesn’t even like it here. (I don’t even remember being there?) Don’t run away again or I will have to put you in jail.” Problem solved.

The couple had just come back from a cruise to Cuba. She showed me some photos of the cars. Wow! They didn’t like Cuba however, but the two octogenarian were traveling everywhere they could while they could.  They waved good-bye to go look for Christmas presents and I hustled back to the gate.

I arrived at gate 106 in time for the Central Florida afternoon thunderstorms to ground aircraft and mechanics. Airline personnel announced  they were distributing $200 travel vouchers to add to our initial vouchers. The engineer was jumping out of her skin. The doc was assuring me that the United States can handle insect carried disease because we have unlimited resources. He also, told the physical therapist that flag football was not for him (the doctor) because that would require physical exertion. My football playing friend replied, “Actually, it isn’t so much about strength and speed. If you have good hips you can play flag football. If you can salsa you can play the game.”

The doc replied, “No one has ever told me I have good hips!” I don’t know if the engineer heard that remark.

The storms were moving east, and the engineer said she was going see if the mechanic was on the plane. A retired gal who was sitting next to our group of four   (and had been entertained by us) exclaimed, “Do we have a plane?” Seems she had been looking at empty gate 104 all day thinking we didn’t have a plane to board. So, the engineer escorted the nice lady over to the window for a look at our plane. 

The engineer came back all excited because the mechanic was on the plane. She soon returned to the window and came running back to us saying, “Using my engineering knowledge I know the plane is ready. I saw the mechanic running his hands along the plane for a pre-flight check.” As she said this she did a pantomime   running her hands along the underside of an imaginary plane for emphasis. “He is coming in now to tell us we can take-off.”

Of course, that gave the rest of us the opportunity to reply cynically, “Or maybe he is going to say, “Never, never put this plane in the air.” And other negative possibilities.

The engineer was correct and we did begin to board. The doc and engineer invited me to come with them on the move to Manhattan since I had become part of their move experience. I declined.

 I rejoined the prison guard and Mad Hatter on the plane and we took off about 4:00pm. 

After we landed our flight attendant exclaimed, “Whew! We made it. Welcome to Hawaii. Just kidding. Welcome to Pittsburgh.” Then he sang “Good night sweetheart.” It was the perfect ending to a perfect airport adventure. Really.

A Quest: My Refugee Experience

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Living was dangerous in Haiti in the late eighties and nineties. People were risking travel on any sort of vessel to escape the dangers of Haiti for the chance of safety in the United States.   (A couple dozen refugees arrived at Guantanamo in this boat.) The refugees sailed to the United States Naval base at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in the hopes of eventually arriving in Miami. Guantanamo was quickly turned into a refugee reception center under the auspices of the United States Military.

I was stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming when I received orders to Guantanamo   as a member of the military tasked to manage the huge influx of refugees on the U.S. outpost in Cuba.

The military did about as good a job as the military could do in securing and providing for the Haitians on the island. Remember, the military mission is to break, burn and kill. A humanitarian mission is a little outside of the military operation.

I had several concerns about the methods we used in keeping the refugees safe and fed but we (the military) managed well.  (Sorry about the poor quality photos. I’m holding a baby girl in this photo.)

Razor wire can provide fence barriers in a very short period of time   and tents can be pitched in no time at all. Out of necessity, the refugees were living in military tents surrounded by razor wire fencing.

The Soldiers and Marines were living in tents like the ones housing the refugees. The Air Force and Navy  were also in tents, but we had air conditioning piped into ours. Some of us moved into portables which were a step up from the tents because they had solid floors instead of dirt. 

I pushed to improve the bathing facilities and dinning process for the refugees which were not up to standards of human dignity. Bathing consisted of a pipe with spigots every few feet with no privacy. Eating was accomplished sitting on the ground. (This is a food line.)

In the midst of a riot one day, at lunch time I was trying to temper the anger by finding out what happened. I asked the young Marine in the middle of it all what happened. He replied, “I don’t know. I just told them to get in line.” Looking him in the eye I said, “No, you said…” and I suggested to him what he said using language that cannot be printed here. He agreed with my assumption. By this time the Haitians where shouting at me to get away from the Marine so they could kill him. I suggested that they would have to kill me if they wanted to kill the Marine. Fortunately, that was the beginning of the end of the riot. I’m glad it turned out that way. Every day after that incident I ate with the Haitians sitting in the dirt with my tray of beans and rice, a couple of slices of bread, an apple and a drink. Sadly, we never upgraded the eating and bathing processes before the camps were closed.

We had hundreds of refugees   with no opportunity to move them to the United States. Our six enclosures were bulging with humanity. Maybe 30-70 folks a week met immigration requirements and were flown to Miami.  Too many others had no options open to them. Coming to The United States is not a painless process.

Even if you are dead it is hard to get into The United States. When I arrived in Guantanamo the body of a man who had died the day he arrived on the island was still on ice three weeks later. The problem for this guy was that he died of HIV/Aids, or Tuberculosis or Malaria. The poor guy had them all. So, the dilemma for this guy was that the U.S. wouldn’t take him, and Haiti didn’t want him back. It took weeks of negotiations, but I finally performed a grave side service in the Navy’s cemetery for the dead guy with about a dozen of his relatives in attendance. Really!

The overwhelming numbers of people flooding the Navy base led leadership to decide on a course of action.   We would ship as many people as possible back to Haiti as fast as could be managed. Every day a Coast Guard cutter deck was loaded with as many people as possible for the 200-mile trip back to Port-O-Prince.     As each enclosure was emptied we torn down the tents and razor wire and packed it away. I know we did this, because I helped strike tents and roll up razor wire.  The hope was that the Haitians watching from the intact compounds would relay the word that there was no place to stay on Guantanamo when they returned to Haiti.

Not one time was there a discussion about separating families. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution. No one coming to the U.S. needs to be arrested. No families need to be separated. The folks coming to this country illegally simply need to be returned to their home country. 

See you next time.

 

A Quest: I Can’t Sit Still

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My goal for this blog in 2018 has been to stay out of the political insanity that is destroying our democracy. I have been doing well with that goal until now. When the Attorney General of the United States abuses quotations from the Christian scriptures to support immoral, cruel and inhumane actions I can’t sit still.

I was immersed in the Christian scriptures for most of forty years   and I take offense when the intent of the words is twisted for some nefarious purpose.

The Christian scriptures were gathered into their present form as a written vehicle pointing to Jesus of Nazareth who is God.   The collected writings predating Jesus who is God (named the Old Testament) are a narration exposing humanity’s repeated failures to live in the presence of God. The last 23 books are the writings of various folks trying to explain what happened when God appeared on earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Only the first four books in the New Testament (The Good News) are somewhat biographical telling the words of Jesus of Nazareth who is God.

When folks want the bible to support their selfish and/or hurtful actions most often they quote from the narrative of failed human efforts to live in God’s presence. Sometimes these folks quote writings from the folks trying to understand what happened when God walked on earth. I have never heard someone doing selfish or hurtful things quote Jesus of Nazareth who is God.

To support the cruel, inhumane and immoral act of separating children from their parents The Attorney General quoted Romans 13:1 ‘Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.’

The Apostle (an important teacher) Paul trying to understand this whole ‘God with us’ experience wrote the letter to the Romans while on a mission trip to Corinth. Paul spent the last two years of his life under house arrest and was executed by the Romans, possibly at the orders of Nero. Paul was probably beheaded for not being subject to the governing authorities.

The man who wrote the letter to The Romans was breaking the law of the governing authorities every time he preached Jesus, God’s Messiah because the only god in Rome was Caesar. The first verse of Roman’s 13 is probably Paul’s attempt to keep Christians alive while living under the heel of Rome.

Also, If the Attorney General would have continued reading the letter he would discover how the governing authority is supposed to function. Ten verses later in Romans 13:10 Paul writes, ‘Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.’ Its easy to obey a governing authority that fulfills the law with love.

Romans 13 does not support the criminal act of tearing refugee children from their parents.

So, what does Jesus of Nazareth who is God really say about any of this?

Let’s start with this; ‘For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)  Jesus goes on to say that if we do this to one of the least of these (refugees) we do it to Him. He also states if we don’t do it to the least of these we are not do it to Him.  Jesus who is God is very clear about how we are to treat the least among us.

Jesus proclaims in Mark 12:31” The second (command) is this; You will love your neighbor as yourself.”

When asked,” Who is my neighbor? In Luke 10 Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan   and asked, “Which of these three (men in the story) do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Jesus says be merciful.

My favorite quote from Jesus about how to treat each other is written in Mark 10:13-16

‘And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them;   for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

There is no scriptural reference in accord with the teaching of Jesus who is God in the Christian bible that supports the cruelty of separating refugee children from their parents.

I cannot imagine that we have slipped so deep into hatefulness as a Nation to create this immoral un-Godly policy of abuse toward refugees. I wrote to my Senators begging them to stop this assault on human dignity. I hope you will do so as well.

See you next time.

A Quest: On Aging

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Yesterday, from the pool,  I shared the following thought with My Jane, who was sitting at the table on the pool deck;   “I’m sixty-nine, suffered a stroke and I ride my bicycle every day. That is fantastic.” Being able to balance on a bicycle and swim are two abilities I celebrate as I journey through my ‘golden’ years.  Fortunately, I have been able to mentally celebrate my physical adjustment to the aging process. Satchel Paige  paraphrased Mark Twain  once saying, “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”

  Francis Bacon had a similar understanding of the aging process. He said, “I will never be an old man. To me old age is always 15 years older than I am.” And George Burns,   one of my favorite age beaters stated, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” I have not gotten old. 

One more quote: “Anyone who stops learning is old whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” Henry Ford 

Always being interested in learning something new my friend Sue and I decided to learn how to skimboard on a visit to Daytona Beach,   Volusia County last month. The videos of our attempts have been destroyed to protect the guilty. We did pose for a few static shots to share, however. 

Sometimes the brain, which, apparently, is younger than the body, tries to learn things that the body simply refuses to explore. This is true probably because the body understands how bones break. Fortunately, no bones were broken in our learning experience at Daytona Beach. After a half hour of futility with the flat board Sue and I grabbed our boogie boards and hit the surf for a couple of hours of joy in the Atlantic Ocean. We found that place between old age and youth where our minds and bodies could celebrate together. We had fun because we have not gotten old. We had fun because we learned not to try skimboarding until we seriously hurt ourselves. We had fun because old age is at least 15 years older than we are. We learned that the beach is great no matter your chronological age.    So, we can get smarter as we grow older, on occasion.

Really!

A Quest: Looking for Answers

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 The sky was a gorgeous blue with a spattering of white puffy clouds during my daily bicycle ride today. Forty minutes every morning I pedal through the three communities next to ours, south of Kissimmee, Fl.   On the journey I greet the same folks nearly every morning. (Living in Florida means I ride my bike every morning every month of the year. Isn’t that fantastic?) My ‘friends’ include the woman walking her Labrador Retriever, the old guy shuffling along with his tiny, really tiny, dog, the retired couple, the guy who reminds me of Franco Harris, the guy walking who always replies with a guttural, “Good Morning”, the couple walking two ‘yappy’ Shih tzus, the gal in the pale blue baseball cap, a family of 5-7 ducks and two families of Sandhill Cranes, like the one playing Frisbee with my oldest grandson.   This is my morning community. We are White, Black, Hispanic and Asian. We don’t know anything about each other but all of us start our day with a pleasant greeting (except the Cranes who just stand guard where they are and the ducks who, I think, are cussing at me for disturbing their morning walk). I wonder if our brief contact is the only human interaction for some of those folks. I wonder, ‘Who do they live with?’ ‘Are they happy?’ ‘Are they lonely?’ ‘How long have they lived here?’ I wonder these things and more, but I never stop pedaling in search of answers. This is my aerobic workout time. If I stopped to chat I would be defeating the purpose of my ride. Is this dedicated aerobic time more important than taking a few minutes to grow a relationship with a few other people? Is it necessary to know my morning community more intimately? Which do I need more, the aerobics or the communication? Really? 

I am reminding myself of a line from a Jimmy Buffett

song; “He went to Paris looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.”  

The song’s title is, “He Went to Paris” and is the story of a young man who now as an elder statesman hangs out in the islands. Ruminating on his life the man says, “some of it’s magic, some of its tragic but I had a good life all of the way.”   Jimmy then sings the last line of the song which is the first line of the song. ‘And he went to Paris looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.’ 

Maybe life isn’t about finding the answers to our questions. Maybe life is about asking the questions.   I believe there are many more questions than there are answers. However, we seem to be programmed to keep asking questions.

Our questions can be as simple as the ones I started this blog with.   Our questions can be as intense as, “How many galaxies are in the universe?”

“What is eternity?”

“Which wine goes best with macaroni and cheese?”

“How do we live in peace?”

“What is love?”

“How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?

What are your questions today? 

  See you next time.

A Quest: Language, It’s All Good

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Around the country we are seeing repeated assaults on folks who are not speaking English. I felt it was time to investigate the truth about language in the United States.

Did you know The United States has no official language, never has probably never will? Really! Thirty States do have statutes declaring American English to be the official language of the state. (I bet some of those states don’t know that the state had some other dominate language in its history.) Other states have multiple official languages including Louisiana which offers services and documents in French, as does New Mexico in Spanish. Hawaiian, although having few native speakers, is an official language along with English of the state of Hawaii. Alaska recognizes English and twenty Native languages as official. Speaking of Native languages there are approximately 130 Native American languages being spoken at home in Our Country today.

‘Contrary to what some Americans seem to believe, the United States historically has been a polyglot nation containing a diverse array of languages. At the time of independence, non-English European immigrants made up one quarter of the population and in Pennsylvania two-fifths of the population spoke German. ‘es ist alles gut’ In addition, an unknown but presumably significant share of the new nation’s inhabitants spoke an American Indian   or African language,  suggesting that perhaps a third or more of all Americans spoke a language other than English.’ (Rubén G. Rumbaut and Douglas S. Massey)

The Louisiana Purchase acquired from France in 1803 contained land that forms present day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; the portion of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River; a large portion of North Dakota; a large portion of South Dakota; the northeastern section of New Mexico; the northern portion of Texas; the area of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River (plus New Orleans). That is a lot of French being spoken. ‘c’est parfait’ 

The Texas Annexation in 1845 brought the Republic of Texas (which had seceded from Mexico) into the language mix of America. The Mexican Session in 1848 included territory that now encompasses California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, about half of New Mexico, about a quarter of Colorado, and a small section of Wyoming. Spanish was the dominate language of this third largest land acquisition by the United States. ‘todo está bien’ 

Don’t forget the Italians. Between 1880 and 1924, more than four million Italians immigrated to the United States, half of them between 1900 and 1910 alone —the majority fleeing grinding rural poverty in Southern Italy and Sicily. Today, Americans of Italian ancestry are the nation’s fifth-largest ethnic group. My neighborhood near Pittsburgh in my junior high years (early 60s) was predominately Italian. I heard Italian being spoken on front porches every time I walked down the street. ‘va tutto bene’

Today American English is spoken at home by 237.8 million people making it the language most used by Americans. The second most used language is Spanish spoken by 40.5 million Americans.

The original language of the territory we call The United States began with those Native tongues mentioned above as well as others. A hodgepodge of languages overlapped, dominated and receded upon the arrival of Europeans to the continent.  At one time or other New York spoke Dutch ‘het is al goed’, Pennsylvania spoke German, Florida was 100% Spanish, Louisiana was French. Of course, there are all the African languages spoken by folks who didn’t want to come to this country. ‘ni njema’   The Asian immigrant influx added additional languages to our spoken cacophony. ‘Daijōbudayo’   We have always been a hodgepodge of languages in this country.

Did you know at Gettysburg during the Civil War interpreters were needed to translate the English commands to the German troops from Pennsylvania? 

Did you know in the days after the D-Day landings American troops were able to talk fluently with German and Polish POWs because the Americans were from families that had recently immigrated to The United States? 

Did you know Navajo soldiers in the Pacific during World War II used their native tongue to confuse Japanese code breakers? ‘hózhǫ́’ 

Did you know there is a demand for multi-lingual speakers in government and tourism?

As in most of what makes us great we have a diversity of language in our country. It is our diversity that gives us an edge over the rest of the world.

I am writing this article as one who nearly flunked French in High School and did flunk Spanish in college.  Once I grew up I realized my mistake of not investing a little effort to become bilingual in this large and diverse world we share with others. Today, I can speak four languages. Yes, I can ask for a beer in German, Spanish, Norwegian and English.    I also, can ask ‘Where is the bathroom!

Let’s celebrate our diversity. It’s all good.

 

The Quest for Truth

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Politics is an unusual profession which was never met to exist. The Founding Fathers saw political service as something people did for a term or two before returning to whatever profession they had left when they went into office.

 However, we do have career politicians. These elected officials struggle with truth to remain in office. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying politicians are all liars and cheats. What I am saying is career politicians have an ability to skew truths to meet their need to be re-elected.

 Here is an example: Republican (and I am not accusing Republicans only) politicians, along with conservative media outlets, have been telling us that electing Democrats will be the end of The Second Amendment. No matter where you stand on the gun safety debate you must begin with the truth of the matter concerning The Second Amendment, or any Amendment. If you allow the political speak of career politicians to sway you without doing your research, you cannot vote intelligently. If you do not sift through the political speak bombarding us incessantly you will debate without the facts.

 Here is the truth. No one person or political party can ‘take away’ an amendment. If a Quaker were elected President she would not be able to take away The Second Amendment. It cannot happen.

Here is how the two-part amendment process works as stated in Article 5 of our constitution.

Step 1: Two-thirds of both houses of Congress pass a proposed constitutional amendment. This sends the proposed amendment to the states for ratification.

Step 2: Three-fourths of the states (38 states) ratify the proposed amendment, either by their legislatures or special ratifying conventions.

 Notice that the President is absent from the process of amending the constitution entirely. No President can undo any amendment, ever! That is the truth. Really!

 Only one time in our history has an amendment be removed. The 21st Amendment undid the 18th Amendment which banded the sale and manufacturing of alcohol.Here is a photo of three of the pastors in our family enjoying the ‘fruits’ of the 21st Amendment. 

The Constitution has only been amended 27 times since the original document was signed. The truth is no one or no political party is going to take away any amendment. The process of amending the Constitution is difficult enough to make it impossible for a minority of people to change it. But, the amending process is easy enough for a super majority of the population to change the document.

Career politicians will say what they must to get re-elected. Do not take what they say at face value. Do some research. Find the facts. Don’t simply listen to your niece or nephew. Know the truth. Be knowledgeable.

 See you next time.

Quest: On the Trail of Baseball Stadiums

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In my continuing quest to visit all the Major League baseball stadiums I flew up to Milwaukee for a Pirates and Brewers contest. Of course, Milwaukee is known as ‘Brew City’ so I visited The Pabst Brewery museum.   You don’t have to be a beer drinker to enjoy this very intimate and informative tour. However, the glass of beer that comes with the tour is loads of fun if you are a beer drinker. The city is very serious about their nickname. The new Bucks (NBA) stadium is even shaped like a beer barrel. Really! 

Five of us joined our guide, Scott, on the tour. The other four folks were in town to celebrate a birthday. Check this out; every year on the wife/mother’s birthday this family visits a different Major League stadium in her quest to experience them all. What are the chances that we would share a brewery tour together?  The only down side was that they were wearing Brewer jerseys instead of a Pirate jersey like mine. We had an enjoyable time being baseball and beer fans.

The Cliff Notes on the tour look like this. In 1844 a German immigrant named, Jacob Best   founded Empire Brewery on Chestnut Street Hill in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The company produced 300 barrels of beer the first twelve months of operation then changed the name to Best and Company. You might have heard of the other three ‘Brew City’ big four breweries; Miller, Schlitz and Blatz. I bet you didn’t know that Best was the other one of the big four. You probably don’t know that because Best became Pabst.

One of Jacob’s daughters was named Maria.   When she was seventeen her father took her along on a trip to Sheboygan aboard a ferry captained by Frederick Pabst.  Legend has it, according to Scott, that Maria nearly fell off the gang way to the ship. Captain Pabst caught her hand and saved her from falling into the water. Apparently, that was all Maria needed to take Frederick’s hand in marriage.

Jacob tried to entice Frederick to come work at the brewery, but the captain stayed at sea until he ran a boat aground in a storm to save the passengers. With the insurance settlement from the wreck Frederick had enough money to purchase half of the brewery. Meanwhile another of Jacob’s daughters, Lisette married Emil Schandein who purchased the other half of the enterprise.

In 1889 The company name was changed to Pabst Brewing Company. That makes sense to me because Schandein Brewery doesn’t have the same kind of ring, does it?

Many of the brewery buildings have been re-purposed since the brewery ceased production on site. 

One more note on this story. Jacob’s son, Charles left Best and Company early on to establishing the Plank Road Brewery and shortly after in 1854 sold it to another German immigrant named Frederick Miller for $2,300.   Yes, this was the beginning of Miller Brewing Company.

Miller Brewing Company owns the naming rights to the baseball stadium. Oh, by the way you can see the Miller Brewery from the stadium.  You can see the stadium from almost everywhere in Milwaukee.

This trip originally was going to be an adventure for My Jane and Me. Due to a serious illness in her family My Jane was diverted to Pennsylvania as a caregiver. So, I had an extra ticket behind home plate on the second level (nice sits). I positioned myself on a bench near the ticket booth and asked individuals as they passed if they needed a ticket. One lady who didn’t need a ticket started talking baseball with me. During our conversation a guy sat down beside me and eventually joined the conversation. The three of us talked a long time (I was at the stadium real early.) Suddenly, the guy says something about the Bob Uecker window opening and he must go purchase his ticket. “I have an extra ticket.” I interjected. “Do you want it?” I showed him the ticket and our friendship blossomed.  Alan, a retired school teacher became my tour guide and we went everywhere we could in that place. Alan explained that he had been waiting for the one-dollar ticket window to open while we were talking. The one-dollar tickets are known as Bob Uecker tickets and the seats are in an obstructed view section of the stadium. “Uke” is a long-time announcer of Brewer games and you might remember him from the Miller Lite commercial in which he states, “Oh, I must be in the front row.” He doesn’t end up in the front row. (the commercial is still on youtube.)   The evening was one of those great baseball moments that happen so often at the ball park.

Miller Park is the twentieth stadium I have visited on this quest. Unfortunately, the quest began in the seventies and six of the stadiums visited have been torn down. So, officially I have visited fourteen of the thirty ‘living’ major league baseball stadiums.

See you next time.

Quest: Lake Toho

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In our backyard is a 19,000-acre lake named Tohopekaliga (we will gather together). The lake is known to the locals as Lake Toho and is located southeast of Kissimmee.   At a maximum depth of 10 feet the lakes 42-mile circumference makes it the largest lake in Osceola County. Just by chance I pay my water bill each month to a company named Toho (I guess Tohopekaliga didn’t fit on the paperwork).

The name Kissimmee originated between the 1750s and 1850s when soldiers were pursuing Seminoles along the shore of Lake Tohopekaliga and commenced to massacre the Indians when a brave Seminole woman began screaming “Kish-a-me. No kill. Kish-a-me. No kill!” Miraculously, the soldiers did heed to her offer and this lady sacrificed herself to save the remaining Seminoles who escaped to the wild lands along the shores of what is now known as “kish-a-me or Kissimmee River.

Our neighbors, Joel and Rosalia   joined me on an air boat adventure to Lake Toho on a beautiful Friday. We picked Boggy Creek Air Adventures     located less than half an hour south of us for our virgin air boat ride.    

Capt Ryan greeted us and invited us to board the air boat to begin our hour-long adventure.  Ryan is a soft-spoken knowledgeable young man who knows his way around Lake Toho after five years’ experience driving air boats.

Our collection of passengers included folks from New Hampshire, Utah and The Netherlands. Ryan pointed out wildlife to us and nudged us as close to gators as the reptiles would allow.  The wildlife was plentiful, and Ryan gave us plenty of opportunity to take pictures.  Did you know the Great Heron loves baby alligator? When we weren’t looking at wildlife the speed addicts were treated to an open throttle run across glass smooth waters. 

We ended our adventure in the Boggy Creek restaurant and gift shop where our appetizer was some very good gator bites. 

See you next time.